Blackwood, N.J., native competes for Commander, Navy Installations Command’s Sailor of the Year

By Rick Burke
Navy Office of Community Outreach

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (SBN) — Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Grenda, a native of Blackwood, New Jersey, was selected as a 2021 Commander, Navy Installations Command’s (CNIC) Shore Enterprise Sailor of the Year finalist.

CNIC announced the award during a ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy on board the historic Washington Navy Yard, May 11. Grenda, was one of four finalists for the award. The sailors competed in a final board that tallied traits in job performance, contributions to command climate, peer group involvement, educational accomplishments, physical fitness standards and participation in community service activities. 

Grenda joined the Navy 19 years ago.

“I was at a point in life where I needed structure and a positive change to set me down the path to success,” said  Grenda. “I had done a few college classes and was left feeling unchallenged and uninspired to continue what I was currently doing. I ultimately decided to walk into a recruiter’s office and look for something better. I liked what he told me, and I was eager to better myself and my country. It turned out to be the best life decision I ever made.”

Today, Grenda serves as an air traffic controller at Naval Support Activity (NSA) Lakehurst.  
“As an air traffic controller, you get focused on the task at hand, and everything else gets shut out when you get busy,” said Grenda. “When you think you may be getting more than you can handle and get through it, you have that sense of accomplishment, it is one of the best moments you can have.”

Growing up in Blackwood, Grenda attended Highland High School and graduated in 2000. Today, Grenda relies upon skills and values similar to those found in Dededo to succeed in the military.”My hometown, more so my family, gave me my work ethic,” said Grenda. “Before I joined, I was too young and proud to realize what my mother and father were both trying to instill in me. The responsibilities and principles my parents wanted to teach me weren’t realized until I experienced them firsthand as an adult. Their life lessons and support are why I have made it this far.”

Located in Lakehurst, New Jersey, NSA Lakehurst is a multi-function organization dedicated providing support and advocacy for sailors and mission partners assigned to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in meeting our nation’s worldwide warfighting objectives.

Serving in the Navy means Grenda is part of a team that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“The Navy contributes to national defense by being the dominant force that controls the freedom of movement on the seas,” said Grenda. “More importantly, the sailors that make that happen all do it without hesitation. The sailors in the Navy set themselves apart from those in other branches by their grit and resiliency. They continuously accept new duties outside of their rated job and ensure the mission is completed with pride.”

Grenda and the sailors they serve with have many opportunities to achieve accomplishments during their military service.

“My proudest accomplishment in the Navy is the tour I am currently on at Naval Support Activity Lakehurst,” said Grenda. “When I arrived here, I was given the tools to succeed and was assigned to lead an entire division of sailors. With the room to guide sailors my way, I quickly learned what worked and what didn’t, and was able to grow personally and professionally alongside my sailors. These three years have been by far, my most rewarding and proudest time in the Navy.”

As a member of the U.S. Navy, Grenda, as well as other sailors, know they are a part of a service tradition providing unforgettable experiences through leadership development, world affairs and humanitarian assistance. Their efforts will have a lasting effect around the globe and for generations of sailors who will follow.

“Serving in the Navy means selfless service to my country and family to me,” added Grenda. “Serving in the Navy has taught me responsibility, accountability and duty. It means using the Navy’s core values to make me a better person, and in turn, using them to assist my shipmates in ensuring today’s Navy remains the dominant fighting force that it is.”

For more information on the 2021 CNIC Shore Enterprise Sailor of the Year award, please visit: